The United Arab Emirates, also referred to as the UAE or the Emirates, is a popular destination for expatriates due to its relatively simple visa requirements compared to the surrounding countries in the Middle East. This makes the country an excellent choice for companies that are expanding internationally. However, like any other country, there are specific requirements that must be followed regarding immigration, residence visas, and work permits.
Types of Work Visas in the United Arab Emirates
On September 5th, 2022, the UAE government implemented new immigration regulations including a new residency visa system that introduces several new categories.
Under the new regulations residence permits for work include:
- Residence permits for contractual employment – an employer-sponsored resident permit that requires Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) approval and an employment contract
- Green Visa – a 5-year self-sponsored residence permit for investors, highly-skilled works, and freelancers
Requirements to Obtain UAE Work Visas
To obtain a residence visa in the UAE, employees will need the following documents:
- A valid passport and a photocopy
- Passport photos
- An Emirates ID card
- An entry permit from the Ministry of Labor
- The results of a medical screening
- A copy of a company card from the employer
- A copy of the company’s commercial license
The employee may apply for a work permit after obtaining a residence visa. To get a work permit, the employee will need all of the documents listed above as well as a work permit application form, which must be completed in Arabic, and an employment contract or job offer from a company in the UAE.
It may be helpful to think of the process of obtaining a UAE work permit in three stages: getting an employment entry visa, getting an Emirates ID card (also known as a Resident Identity Card), and obtaining a residence visa and work permit.
How to Get an Entry Visa for the UAE
An employment entry visa in the UAE is also referred to as a pink visa. To begin the process of obtaining this permit, the employer must apply for visa quota approval on behalf of the employee. This approval will be obtained through the Ministry of Labour (MOL).
Next, the employer will submit an employment contract to the MOL. The prospective employee must sign this contract.
The Ministry must approve the work permit application before issuing an employment entry visa. With the approval and visa secured, the employee will have two months to enter the UAE.
Upon entering the UAE with a pink visa, the employee has a period of 60 days to obtain a residence visa and formal work permit. As of February 2023, foreign nationals unable to travel to UAE within the first 60 days are allowed to apply for an extension of an additional 60 days. This is available for all types of visas but is only available once.
Getting an Emirates ID
An Emirates ID is required for the medical screening employees will need to apply for a residence visa. To apply for an ID, the employee must provide their entry visa along with an original passport and a copy. Employees will need to apply in person at the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) center, where they will provide biometrics including fingerprints and a photograph.
Obtaining a Residence Visa and Work Permit
To apply for a residence visa, the employee will need all of the required documents listed in the previous section. A residence visa for contractual work in the UAE is valid for up to two years (formerly three, but reduced in October 2022) and can be renewed. The employee’s work permit will be listed as part of the residency visa.
Once the work permit is approved, the employee can officially begin working.
Other Important Considerations
One of the unique considerations of working in the UAE is that work permits must be sponsored by an entity that is locally licensed and incorporated in the UAE. This requirement can complicate the process for companies that are in the early stages of global expansion. If your company does not have an established presence in the UAE, you can work with a global PEO as the Employer of Record in the UAE.
Some employees may also wish to bring family members with them to the UAE. Employees can sponsor residency visas for family members once they’ve received their own resident visa.
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